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HMAV Bounty and the Bligh-Campbell connection: Further aspects of the crewing of Bounty: Lack of merchant interest in Pacific opportunities: After Bligh's open boat voyage: Duncan Campbell hears of the mutiny on HMAV Bounty: The return of William Bligh: Fletcher Christian's family attacked: Heywood's faux pas: Lady Penrhyn, alderman Macaulay and Tahiti: Lady Penrhyn's secret orders: Bligh and Blackheath Freemasonry:

 

The Blackheath Connection

Chapter 37

 

HMAV Bounty and the Bligh-Campbell Connection

 

      Hinton East was a botanically-minded receiver-general on Jamaica.  East, ([1]) writing to Joseph Banks in July, 1784, had asserted the "infinite importance" of breadfruit to the West Indies. ([2]) East hoped the Assembly of Jamaica would again take steps to re-awaken English interest in breadfruit... cloaked in botanical "motives", the search would be mounted for cost effectiveness in feeding slaves of the Caribbean.

 

     Political disturbances wracked Jamaica during 1787, and yet another hurricane caused damage of £50,000. Both Campbell and Banks would have known of this. West India planters must have been worried, since slaves - property, not people - were starving. ([3]) There was also the problem of the dispute between Britain and the United States over the West Indian carrying trade.

 

       No records or even opinions have even been sighted to the effect that Campbell and Banks were acquainted in such a way that led them to meet even irregularly, although after 1777, Banks and Solander had helped set up a hulks hospital. Much is unclear and imprecise concerning Banks' promotion of Bligh for the voyage, as it is concerning Campbell's part in proceedings. It is also necessary to consider the not-informal business of retrieving Bligh from the West India mercantile and arranging his re-entry into the navy, whilst Bligh himself was unaware of proceedings.

 

Further aspects of the crewing of Bounty:

 

      Thomas Douglas (or, Hamilton-Douglas), fourth Earl Selkirk, of St Mary's Isle, a friend of Bethams on the Isle of Man, complained on 14 September of the complement of Bounty, as Bligh had refused to take out his son, Dunbar Douglas. ([4]) Bligh told Selkirk that Lord Howe had fixed the complement of the ship. Richard Betham too desired Bligh to take out Dunbar Douglas, and the fellow had just arrived from the West Indies in time to go out. Betham had written, "and I hope my Lord Selkirk will allow him [to go], as it will give you [Bligh], the pleasure to be the means of his [Dunbar's] promotion." Betham wrote to Bligh on Dunbar Douglas on September 21. This was an "opportunity' Bligh forcefully declined. ([5])

 

      News that Campbell was close to matters for the crewing of the breadfruit ship had perhaps gotten about in some circles! Campbell was in receipt of a request from John Sheppard at Gravesend (who may have been a mastmaker), that Sheppard's son go on Lynx/breadfruit ship as gunner. Actually, whether Sheppard wanted his son to go on the breadfruit voyage, or merely wanted him on Campbell's Jamaica ship Lynx, is not clear. Campbell when Lynx had been rejected for the breadfruit voyage put her in command of Capt. Ruthven. Interpretation of Campbell's reply to Sheppard might depend on why Campbell might have needed a gunner for Lynx, if she was only to continue sailing to Jamaica. Campbell wrote:

 

Campbell Letter 163:

                           London 21 Sept 1787

Mr John Sheppard

Gravesend

         I have been from home for a week past and did not receive your Letter till this morng. I have to serve a Young Gentleman altered my intentions in disposing of the Lynx & have given the Command of that Ship to Capt Ruthven. As you seem to prefer sending your son in that ship I shall desire Capt Ruthven to take him out as his Gunner. When I proposed his going with Bligh I did it on a principle which I thought might turn out to his advantage in the end if it pleased God to bring him safe back. Risques all that go to Sea must Run but nevertheless any services in my power he shall from his Connexions & his own Merit be welcome to I am ([6])

 

     Three-masted, Bethia, had been built in Hull in 1784 or 1785. Her carrying capacity was 215 tons. Length, 90 feet. Beam, 24 feet. Deepest in the hold, she was 10 feet three inches, under the beam at the main hatchway. And pretty, with a figure head of a woman in a riding habit. ([7]) The proposed breadfruit voyage was common knowledge to those who had recently begun thinking about the Pacific. Arthur Phillip at Rio de Janeiro on 2  September, 1787, with the First Fleet, wrote to Evan Nepean, "[those] articles will, I hope, be sent out with the ship that goes for the breadfruit." ([8]) The advertisement for tenders for the breadfruit voyage had only been published on 10 May, three days before the First Fleet sailed from Portsmouth.

 

     By 9 September, 1787, a more complex plan had emerged for fitting up two ships ex-NSW, one for China, one for India, promoted by West India merchant Benjamin Vaughan. ([9]) Vaughan was an influential member of the West India Lobby group (he had probably met Jefferson in March-April 1786). In 1784 he was a member of the Certificate Committee of the West Indian Planters and Merchants meeting at the London Tavern. Vaughan was on their select committee in May 1785, and on the standing  committee in December 1787. Three other Vaughans were also associated with the standing committee about then. ([10]) Given the number of Campbells on Jamaica, the absence of the name Campbell from names of the London-based West India lobby groups remains intriguing.

 

     Bligh began to crew Bounty and found in Richard Betham a "helpful" father-in-law. Peter Heywood, whose father had been steward of the Duke of Atholl and Deemster of the Isle of Man, whose uncle was Sir Thomas Pasley in the navy, had his appointment to Bounty procured by Betham. ([11]) John Hallet was a brother of Anne Hallet, a friend of Bligh's wife, Elizabeth. John Hallett of Hythe, near Southampton, father of John, on 25 August wrote to Banks thanking him for procuring his son's appointment to Bounty.  ([12]) The boy Hallet was willing to come to London immediately if Bligh thought such was necessary. William Peckover, who had been gunner on Cook's Discovery, third voyage, became gunner of Bounty. Alex Smith alias John Adams, was son of a Thames lighterman. Edward Young, nephew of Captain Sir George Young, was also a protégé of Banks, and was known to Peter Heywood. ([13])

 

*   *   *

 

Lack of merchant interest in Pacific opportunities:

 

     By October 1787, the familiar signs of overcrowding and disease were again seen in the British jails. Scotland was also complaining about a jails crisis. ([14]) Another hulk was arranged for 230 convicts. Campbell from Blackheath wrote to Nepean on 20 October, 1787 recognizing the gaols and hulks are becoming overcrowded. The new hulk Chatam was planned, as part of routine administration. At this time, all vittling and stores had been placed on Bounty, by 9 October. Later, Lord Howe, who had promised to look after Bligh's promotion if the voyage went well, visited Bligh at Deptford and flippantly suggested that Bligh take a cask of wine aboard at Teneriffe and mature it by circumnavigation for Joseph Banks. On 15 October, Bligh sent his family to Portsmouth for goodbyes. There was some misery, as one of his daughters had smallpox.

 

*   *    *

 

     Bounty  was at Spithead by 4 November, to wait twenty days for Howe's final orders. Bligh became increasingly impatient. On 28 November the ship's crew received two month's pay in advance. On the afternoon she left Spithead, and shortly after, Bligh was vociferous in complaint to Campbell, to whom he wrote a marvellous seaman's letter, on 10 December. ([15]) He feared he would be unable to get about Cape Horn in time. He was correct. Try mightily as he did, he failed to get around Cape Horn. The story of the mutiny, of course, is history.

 

*     *     *

 

After Bligh's open boat voyage:

 

     By October 1789, Campbell had developed a habit of going into the country more frequently. In October 1789, his son Dugald wrote from Jamaica on buying more negroe ground. After his magnificent sail to Timor, Bligh at Coupang on 19 August, 1789 ([16]) wrote to his wife, Betsy, about the mutiny: "know then, my own dear Betsy, I have lost the Bounty". ([17]) In October 1789 Bligh also wrote from Timor about Fletcher Christian and the mutiny to his wife Betsy, addressed to her c/- Duncan Campbell at the Adelphi. ([18]) That original letter is now in the care of the Mitchell Library, Sydney, and was displayed during mid-1989 when the Mitchell and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, were both holding exhibitions on the bicentenary of the mutiny.

 

     Bligh on 12 October, 1789 had written to Campbell from Batavia, giving an explicit and unadorned account of his experience of the mutiny... "the most severe treachery". A packet sailed on the 15th. Bligh sent his mail by it but hoped to reach home before his letters did. ([19]) There is no indication in Campbell's letters that he received Bligh's October letter from Batavia before Bligh set foot back in England.

 

       On 4 October, 1789, the officials at Exeter Gaol reported a mass break-out by 26 prisoners who had stolen firearms. On 20 October, London aldermen brooded officially yet again on the urgent need to remove convicts from Newgate, and government officials including Campbell were brooding on lists of up to 1000 convicts for the Second Fleet). ([20]) On 3 October, 1789, Grenville officially informed the Admiralty of a plan of finding a whaler base in the South Atlantic and ordered a ship to be fitted as quickly as possible, so that it could sail during winter. ([21]) Rather vaguely he wrote: ([22])... "certain Islands situated in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, and comprised within Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, as well as some parts of the Coast of Africa, should be examined with a view to further operations". (American whalers were then operating in waters off Africa, of course to be followed by British whalers by 1791. ([23])).

 

     For the Pacific survey, the deckless boat Discovery, a new ship on the stocks at Randall and Brent's Yard at Rotherhithe, was chosen. On 7 December, 1789 her command was given to Henry Roberts, a veteran of Cook's second and third voyages. First Lt. was George Vancouver. But by various delays she did not leave until January-February, 1790. By that time, the Nootka Crisis had arisen and as "this was not a suitable time for a survey vessel to be prowling around the south Atlantic where there had already been incidents with Spain, the Discovery voyage was therefore suspended". ([24]) On 5 May, 1790, Pitt "reluctantly" asked Parliament for armaments to resist Spain, claiming it was unbearable that the extension of fisheries and navigation be resisted by the Spanish. Planning for its voyage was resumed after 24 July, 1790, once Britain and Spain had negotiated their positions on "the Nootka Sound crisis". ([25])

 

Duncan Campbell hears of the mutiny on HMAV Bounty:

 

     The social history of Britain before 1800 is laced with shocking stories of cruelty, and many such stories find their way quite naturally into the early European history of  Australia. Up till the 1930s in Australia, it was regarded by many as morbid to dwell on such stories. When it first moved onto film, the story of the mutiny on the Bounty was incorrectly thought to be associated with a brutal naval custom such as keel-hauling, hence the unwarranted reputation of Bligh as a sadistic flogger of men. On and on the stories of cruelty run...

 

     In another domain, incredible as it seems today, because of the way the Bligh legend has been written, Campbell in London on 6 January, 1790 was writing to his son Dugald hoping that his youngest son, (Little Duncan, aged nine) then on Jamaica, would be coming back to London with Bligh on Bounty. This was to be a very cheerful private use of a king's armed vessel, indeed!

 

Little Duncan's return was hoped-for fondly...

 

Campbell Letter 164:

                          London 6 Jan 1790

Dugald Campbell, Jamaica -

                            .....Since the above, I had had the great satisfaction of receiving my Dear Dugald's Letters of the 11 & 27 Oct, the favourable Accounts of the Weather therein conveyed was a very pleasing circumstance to me. I have read with attention that part of your letter touching the purchase of 60 or 70 Acres additional of Negroe Ground, adjoining to that of Saltspring, which you seem to think may be bought a Bargain. ... I have referred also to Mr brown's letter on the head of such a purchase & his letter seems to me to be very much to the purpose. ....

   I will however contrary to my inclinations, to the laying out of further money in Jamaica, agree to the purchasing 60 or 70 Acres of the land which you so strongly recommend .... I have told him [Mr Brown] of my intention of giving you the sole management of my Jamaican Affairs, which I trust he will receive with becoming propriety .... I observe what you say about sending Duncan home with Bligh should he arrive in time. I am not so clear that Duncan will now at so early a period benefit by the change - he is not come the length of Nautical observations, nor will he be so well informed in Loading and Stowing a ship as in the Lynx now be so well accomodated: if however the departure of the two Ships was to happen nearly at the same time, in that case I should have no objection to Duncan coming home in the Bounty.

                ......Shift on your Account in the Britannia Capt Lamb. ([26])< /p>

 

 

     Writing to Dugald on 3 February, 1790, a month before he found out what had happened to Bligh, Campbell began:

Campbell Letter 165:

                 London 3 February 1790

To Dugald Campbell, Jamaica

......our prospect of evading storms which have on so many occassions blasted our hopes of a Crop at Saltg. ... I am glad to observe you are making the necessary exertions for succeeding Crops, I hope & trust with less attending expences. The quantity you expect this year I hope may be increased without overworking your Negroes, which is at all times to be avoided, as well from motives of humanity, as real benefit to our Interests. The folks who are for promoting the abolition of the Slave Trade, have now taken it up with as much Zeal as in the last Sessions: yet I cannot say I have no so great fear as many of my friends here seem to have; my relyance is than on the Ultimate Mature & important deliberations of the Legislature such dangerous consequences will open to their view affecting the Wealth and Commerce of their Country, as must call forth the Wisdom of Parliament to prevent so unpolitick an event from taking place. I have perused your letter of the 9 Nov to your Uncle Neil...[who had just died]

I shall begin to look on the Account of Duncan's arriving every day. Tho I have heard of Jack being safe arrived at Madrass, & being on the best terms with his Capt; yet I have no letter from himself; he has an arduous task on his hands. By the Accounts from Madrass the Chief Mate is mending but slowly. I think the Valentine is now on her passage home, & I flatter myself with the hope of seeing Jack in all May. ([27]) ([28]) ([29])< /p>

 

     Campbell was considering giving Dugald the sole management of Saltspring. ([30]) Bligh's probable landing soon at Jamaica had been referred to in an earlier letter to Dugald - the assumption of course being there had been no interruption to Bounty's breadfruit voyage. Campbell did not feel that such an unpolitic event as the abolition of slavery, could in the wisdom of Parliament, occur.

 

       Otherwise, Campbell was dubious about little Duncan coming home with Bligh on Bounty, as the lad might learn less, commercially. Unless perchance, Bounty  left Jamaica in company with Lynx. Campbell directed Dugald to shift his own account in Britannia Capt. Lamb. As Campbell later found, Dugald had intended to put Little  Duncan on Bounty for his voyage home... And there is no indication from Campbell's letters here that he had received Bligh's October letter to him from Batavia, before Bligh set foot back in England.

 

*     *     *

 

The return of William Bligh:

 

Bligh's first care had never been managing men.

Let him be given the waves and the winds and here

were the balance of his abilities.

... thinking disgusted on Englishmen and Manxman,

abrupted out of assumptions of family

and Whitehall, washing the drift of it over and over,

almost ready to heave the tiller about

for Darien, the navel of the world.

... A puzzle.

Could keep us talking round new Holland and to here.

.... But Bligh got home,

and sometimes, with the poker of prying questions,

a slack delightless host would stir the very

embers of memory, and after, in his sleep,

how Isle of Man, ahoy went fending along

long lobbies of the chronicles of England..,

...all through the watches of God, yet there they were

turning the mysteries of history to mutiny

Bligh on the sea is a brash of the weather we brew.

 

                               J. M. Couper, The Book of Bligh. Melbourne University Press, 1969.

 

        And shortly, Campbell was visited by an angry Pacific hurricane. Bligh arrived back in England on 14 March, 1790, at the Isle of Wight, from Batavia via the Cape on the ship Vlydte. ([31]) Already he had written heart-broken letters to his wife, Betsy, and to Campbell, about losing Bounty. Soon he was on Campbell's Adelphi doorstep. Curiously, Campbell does not seem to have been upset about the outcome of the voyage, nor does he seem to have had any anxiety about any loss of face, as with The Royal Society, or the Society of Arts, or before West India merchants, due to the mutiny. The expression of outrage, it seems, was mostly left to Bligh.

 

     The sensation caused when Bligh returned home greatly disturbed the development of an accurate picture of the Pacific's maritime history to date. The events of 1789, including Britain's decision to further pursue its creation of a convict colony by raising the NSW Corps and sending the Second Fleet, had much to do with the way both Australia, and Tahiti, were entered into international consciousness - and here one does not mean only European consciousness. Tahiti entered "history" because of Cook's first voyage of exploration, then with the Bounty voyage, plus some contacts by the French and Spanish, but not including the visit by Lady Penrhyn. Breadfruit was anyway destined to be ignored by slaves. ([32]) Was there anything that Bligh's 1930s biographer, Mackaness, ([33]) or others, may not have known about? ([34])

 

        Campbell when he heard the news of the mutiny took it apparently calmly: no apoplexy. His sister Molly's son, Dr Campbell Betham, had recently graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh, then gone to Whitehaven to begin his practice. ([35]) Molly's husband, Bligh's father-in-law, Richard Betham, had died about 31 May, 1789. ([36])

 

     According to records on the Isle of Man and other information in the Campbell Letterbooks, Betham was certainly deceased by late 1789. His will, with one Robert Heywood assisting the executors, was dated 31 March, 1787. A document at the Isle of Man archives has someone applying for his post, as Betham was deceased, on 31 May, 1789. Betham's will was probated about 24 June, 1789. Some fresh aspects of  Manx background came to the fore with the defence of the mutineers and their reputations.

 

      Campbell about the time Bligh returned was, initially at least, more interested in helping the Betham children with the execution of their father's will, and he wrote about the Betham estate to Dr Campbell Betham at Whitehaven. ([37]) Betham's will was a little peculiar. ([38]) Betham had not become wealthy and his wife Molly had predeceased him. (Curiously, Molly was never mentioned in her brother Duncan's letters to Richard). Betham had given a pledge for the payment of debts and legacies, to Robert Telly and Robert Heywood Esquire, both of Douglas, the Isle of Man. Betham gave everything to his daughter Anne and his son Campbell the young doctor, exceptions noted in codicils, should he have written them. There was nothing for Harriott Colden or her two sons, and oddly enough, nothing for Bligh's wife, Elizabeth.

 

Campbell Letter 166:

                        London March 19, 1790

Dr Campbell Betham

Whitehaven

                  I receive your letter of the 15th Inst - advising me of your having taken up your residence at Whitehaven & of your intentions to practice & for aspect of success in that place, which gives me much satisfaction. Nothing can contribute to that success more than a minute attention to your demeanour and address. Levity in every situation of Life is disgusting, but more particularly so in a Man of your profession. Let me convince you therefore to adopt a deportment suitable to the character you profess. & to study by all means to get into the good graces of the old ladies even more than the young, those of the last will naturally follow the first, to accomplish this you must yourself study the Graces. A Well bred Man will always meet with attention and respect. I send you herewith the Deed which you and your sister will sign, first filling up the dates in words, & return it to me as soon after as you please, you may draw for the money. I observe what you say as to the money you suppose to be owing to Mr. Kinlock. It was me who paid your Bill, but that you will settle when you can better afford it. I send you herewith a few letters the purport of which you will see by perusal, afterwards seal and deliver them or not as you may seem best. I think they can do no harm & may be of some service to you. Poor Bligh has come home without his Bounty, but I trust & hope his conduct will be so rewarded that upon the whole he will suffer but little. All my family desire to be remembered to you -            I am ([39])< /p>

 

     But it may have been that young Dr Betham was given to levity, and Duncan himself a little depressed. Duncan's brother Neil had died aged 66 on 23 February, previous, buried the 27th in Plumstead Churchyard. Yet, Campbell was shortly involved with Bligh's propagandising for a suitably vindicating aftermath to the mutiny. It is also not known if Campbell had ever met his employee, Fletcher Christian. Why did Campbell take the news so quietly? As a man long-experienced in employing ships captains, he may not have been so impressed with Bligh's personality, and hence unsurprised at hearing of a mutiny? He may not have cared greatly whether the voyage had been a success or a failure, but this seems unlikely.

 

    Another reason is possible for reticence from Campbell. At the time in London, representatives of slaving interests in Parliament were defending their industries, claiming that the mortality of slaves on the Middle Passage was not as large as the loss in the transportation of British convicts! One does not imagine Campbell would have wished to buy into that argument, since he would have drawn attention to himself as the major convict contractor operating from London till 1775, whilst it was his policy as hulks overseer to avoid publicity at all costs. The death rate on convict ships to North American was normally about one-in-seven.

 

      At the time, because of the healthiness of the First Fleet, the mortality rate of that Fleet had caused no comment. At the time, the death rate of the Second Fleet was unknown? The only death rates for transportation that could have been referred to were the rates known for before 1775. One doubts Campbell would have liked his associates to be reminded of that aspect of his career. Since the Bounty project had long been promoted by slaving interests, as the mutiny story hit the headlines, it might well have been that Campbell stayed out of matters as far as possible, in order primarily to keep mention of himself and the hulks out of the newspapers.

 

     If Campbell did feel that any of his prestige had been damaged in public because of the mutiny, he had other reasons to lie low. A nobody named Fletcher Christian - his former employee - had taken a king's ship, generating indignation amongst officials. The Royal Society was scarcely amused, though strangely, historians of the mutiny have only canvassed Banks' views. Finally, George III and the navy sent off HM Pandora on a punitive expedition to capture the mutineers. Campbell may well have felt that anything he might say would be quite superfluous. On the evidence of his Letterbooks, however, he took the news calmly. He had a practical task to hand - helping Betsy Bligh, her sisters and her brother - execute their father's will and organise his estate. Also, the British Creditors were meeting again.

 

    Whatever Campbell thought about the mutiny, he did become keen to see Bligh's words published. The aftermath of the Bounty mutiny has been treated with remarkable passion, more than was ever warranted. Generations of writers have exercised their wits on the legends, screen writers have agonised over niceness of portrayal, and many have wondered why Bligh's personality was so much a magnet for mutiny. Bligh certainly deserves a place in maritime history for his magnificent open boat voyage to Timor. Yet it also seems that Campbell never again alluded to the mutiny in family letters written after the early 1790s.

 

      One Londoner who knew Jamaica was keen to know more about the mutiny. At the time, Campbell was associated with the London charity for Scots, the Scottish Corporation. On 17 March, Bligh was presented to George III in company with Sir Joseph Banks. The same day, Campbell wrote to a man who had nominated him (Campbell) for a seat on the board of a charity for indigent London Scots, the Scottish Corporation, a charity chartered by Charles II for the relief of poor natives of North Britain not entitled to any parochial relief in England. This was Lt. General Melville of Brewer St., who invited Campbell to dine with him on the 20th. Melville, who was a member of the West India merchants' lobby group, was curious about news of Bligh's return and may have wanted to report to the lobby group. So he invited Campbell to dinner? That same day, 17 March, Campbell replied to Melville, ([40]) declining the  invitation, as on the 20th he had to chair a meeting of the British Creditors.

 

Campbell Letter 167:

                   Adelphi 17th March, 1790

Lieut. Gen. Melville      Brewer Street

         I had the honour to receive your very polite letter & kind Card of invitation to dine at Brewer Street on Sunday on which day being engaged I am depr